Philippines, US seek new military deal after Duterte exit

Members of the Gabriela Alliance for Women have called for the termination of US-Philippines military exercises for 2020 as part of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines and the US are considering a new military pact similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which President Rodrigo Duterte ordered terminated.

The US Defence Department is "extremely concerned" with Mr Duterte's decision, and diplomats from both countries are now "finding ways and means to see how we can come up with something similar" to the VFA, the Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said in a forum in Manila.

"The door is not totally shut as far as we are concerned," Mr Romualdez said. "I am confident that our relationship with the United States will remain."

The two nations are looking to model the new agreement on the South-east Asian nation's military deals with Australia and Japan, he added.

A proposal on the VFA's replacement may be ready in as early as two months, and will be recommended to the military and Mr Duterte, the envoy said.

Both countries would like the US special forces stationed in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to stay in order to fight terrorism, Mr Romualdez said.

The VFA has governed military cooperation between the Philippines and the US since 1998 and is key to implementing a mutual defence treaty signed in 1951, shortly after the Philippines achieved independence from the US.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.